THE TRUE SPIRIT OF SAARC

PROFESSOR ALI SUKHANVER

 

Though this world of today has to bear the blame of being very much complicated, intricate, self-centered and to some extant knotty and thorny because of its over-mechanized and ultra-computerized ways and manners but still we find in abundance a very strong urge and undefeatable passion of serving the suffering and ailing humanity from east to west and from north to south. It is something very much positive and appreciable that in spite of so many individual internal and external problems of their own, the member countries of the SAARC organization and our friends in the European Union spare a lot of their precious time to ponder over the situation regarding the increasing violence and terrorism in the world which is no doubt depriving this world of the most valuable and inevitable need of today, that is the peace.

 

The joint venture of the SAARC and the European Union regarding the peace and prosperity of the South Asian region shall benefit millions of people of South Asiawhose lives have become hell at the hands of terrorists and their benefactors. This co-operation would also encourage the SAARC nations to expand political will to resolve the outstanding issues which are a hindrance in the way to peace and prosperity of South Asia. The role of the SAARC is concerned; it must be same as that of the European Union. The European Union has very successfully brought most of the European countries under one flag; and this organization now acts as a custodian of the common interests of the whole European region. From Australiato the United Kingdomand from Belgiumto Francewe find one voice, one thought and this impression of oneness has made Europea symbol of opulence and prosperity throughout the world. The same impression of unity and harmony must be the aim and objective of the SAARC countries. SAARC must prove itself as a hope for uplifting the life standard of people in the region.

 

The role of SAARC needs a lot of revolutionary changes. In spite of a lot of sincerity and devotion and dedication to the aim, the SAARC organization has yet not come up to the desired expectations of the people of Pakistan. It still seems toddling for the achievement of the role assigned to it. A lack of co-ordination, deficiency of harmony and no-doubt a very obvious scarcity of co-operation among the SAARC countries has ever been noticed and observed and criticized. Moreover there are so many inter-state disputes which are the main hindrance in the way to peace and prosperity of South Asian Countries. Unless these bilateral disputes are resolved the SAARC will continue giving less than expected performance in mutual interaction and business. There are certain other obstacles for SAARC countries including absence of liberal trading regime and lack of modern research in the field of science, technology and education. It is the result of lack of political will to resolve these bilateral issues that in spite of being home to over 20 percent of the world’s populationSouth Asiaaccounts for only 1.5 percent of world GDP and just over one percent of world trade.  Majority of the population in the SAARC countries is deprived of basic human needs. The religious, ethnic, regional and extra regional conflicts have negatively affected the lives of common people in the region. The situation of the South Asian region particularly with reference to the peace and prosperity, law and order, economic development and regional co-operation could have been far better if the member countries of the SAARC had followed the foot-marks of the European Union.

 

It is another bitter reality that the SAARC has not been successful even in taking even the initial steps necessary for crushing down the menace of terrorism which is undermining silently but rapidly the whole of Pakistani society. Terrorism is like a wild fire; it never stays where it starts from. The flames of wild fire of terrorism which once started fromAfghanistanare now advancing towardsIndiaafter enwrapping the peaceful and prosperous society ofPakistan. The member countries of the SAARC must keep it in mind, if today it isAfghanistanorPakistan, tomorrow it could beIndia,Sri Lanka,Maldives,Bhutan,NepalandBangladeshalso. To put a check on this blazing fire we all need an air of cordial relationship and an atmosphere of close and friendly co-operation. Be it the matter of unity or the issues regarding conflicts and differences, the responsibility of settling down the affairs of a family  always goes on to the shoulders of the elder ones. The SAARC countries are also like a family; here in this family, we the members of this family are looking towardsIndiafor a viable solution of our problems particularly regarding terrorism and economic prosperity but unfortunately the hegemonic designs ofIndianever let our expectations come true.India, being the largest country of the region, will have to play the role which is expected from her and without that role the SAARC organization would never be able to attain its set-targets.

 

Unless Indiaplays a positive and affirmative role, the SAARC will not be able to perform as EU and ASEAN are doing. In the larger interest of the SAARC, Indiawill have to settle down her conflicting issues with Pakistan. The list consisting of the conflicting issues is certainly not very long and fortunately none of these issues is unsolvable; all we need is a will and desire to solve them.  At the top of the list comes the Kashmirissue and next comes the River water conflict; both these issues could be resolved very easily because both the countries have a guideline for the solution to these problems. For the solution of the river water conflict, the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 provides both of these countries a very clear line of action. As far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, I would like to refer to a few lines from a statement delivered by His Excellency Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India on 27th October, 1947, he said, “In the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State.” Both the nations will have to work together with more zeal and zest to dispel the widely spread misconception of enmity between them. And this is really what the SAARC needs; the true sprit of the SAARC.

 

(Extracts from the paper read at the SAYPPS international conference in Dhaka Bangladesh on 5th March, 2012.Topic was EU-SAARC CO-OPERATION.)

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